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NIA raids against ISIS across TN, Kerala, Karnataka in blast cases

In a major crackdown against ISIS sympathizers, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) early Wednesday morning started raids at multiple locations across Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu in two separate blast cases under investigation, sources said.

According to sources in the elite anti-terror probe agency, the searches are being conducted in connection with last year’s blasts in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore and Karnataka’s Mangaluru which occurred on October 23, 2022, and November 19, 2022, respectively.

Sources said that nearly five dozen locations across the three states were raided simultaneously, including those Kodungaiyur in Tamil Nadu and Mannadi in Kerala. The NIA began a probe on October 27 last year in a bomb blast in a car laden with explosives in front of Kottai Eswaran Temple of Coimbatore district in Tamil Nadu on October 23, last year.

Eleven accused persons were arrested earlier by the anti-terror agency in the case in which Tamil Nadu Police initially registered a complaint on October 23 last year.

The deceased accused, Jamesha Mubeen, after swearing bayath (allegiance) to ISIS was planning to carry out a suicide attack and cause extensive damage to the Temple Complex with the intention to strike terror in the community, said the NIA in a statement. “Investigations have revealed that the accused persons had entered into a criminal conspiracy in the interior of forested regions of Asanoor and Kadambur areas of Sathyamangalam forest, Erode district, in February, 2022,” the NIA stated.

“The meetings were led by previously arrested accused Umar Farook and participated by deceased accused Jamesha Mubeen, Mohammed Azharudin, Sheikh Hidayatullah and Sanofar Ali, where they conspired to prepare for and execute terror acts,” it added.

In December last year, the NIA took over the investigation into the November 19 pressure cooker blast in an autorickshaw in Mangaluru wherein a passenger, identified as Mohammed Shariq, was carrying a pressure cooker bomb made from an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).

The auto-rickshaw exploded leading to injuries to the passenger, Mohammed Shariq, who was carrying a pressure cooker turned into an IED, and the auto-rickshaw driver Purushottam Poojari.

The cooker bomb was designed to carry out a large-scale attack to fuel communal tensions in the coastal region and in the state, the agency said. Shariq was en-route to a pre-decided location for carrying out the blast when the explosion took place.

The NIA started its investigation under the provision of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the investigating officers then questioned the main accused Shariq, as the state police found his links with the Islamic State (IS) during its investigation. It also learned that he had radicalized his schoolmates, Syed Yasin and Muneer Ahmed, and introduced them to IS as well.

Together, the three of them had experimented and rehearsed the explosion on the banks of the Tunga river in the Shivamogga district, sources said, adding that the practice explosion was also reportedly successful. Further, according to sources, the main accused, Shariq, had a handler who was orchestrating and instructing him regarding all these activities.

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DMK MP T R Baalu writes letter to party MPs aiming to remove TN Governor

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader and Lok Sabha MP representing Sriperumbudur constituency near Chennai T R Baalu on Tuesday wrote a letter to ‘all the like-minded MPs’ urging them to back a proposal seeking removal of the Tamil Nadu governor R N Ravi. “The proposal is to be addressed to President Droupadi Murmu following the gathering of MPs at the Anna Arivalaiyam headquarters and signing of MPs,” the letter stated.

“Members of Parliament belonging to DMK and like-minded political parties are requested to kindly visit Anna Arivalaiyam Headquarters to read and sign in a memorandum addressed to the Hon’ble President of India, pertaining to the immediate withdrawal of the Governor of Tamil Nadu.

People of Tamil Nadu had witnessed clashes between the DMK party leaders and Tamil Nadu governor R N Ravi earlier too. In April, DMK Party leaders registered protests against Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi for not sending the NEET Exemption Bill to the President after being passed twice in the state Assembly. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and its allies boycotted a get-together party called by the Governor on the occasion of Tamil New Year day.

Earlier, RN Ravi expressed serious concern over the delay of four days in handing over the Coimbatore blast case to NIA and the possible destruction of crucial evidence in a high-profile terror plot.

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Narayana Murthy responded to son-in-law Rishi Sunak becoming UK PM

Narayana Murthy, the co-founder of Infosys, congratulated his son-in-law Rishi Sunak after he was confirmed to be the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Murthy said that he was “proud” of what Sunak has achieved and expressed his confidence that he will “do his best” for the country. 

Congratulations to Rishi. We are proud of him, and we wish him success. We are confident he will do his best for the people of the United Kingdom,” Murthy told ANI on Monday. 

Sunak got married to Murthy’s daughter Akshata after the couple met at Stanford University in the United States while pursuing their MBA. Akshata lived abroad for most of her life due to her studies and profession, and the couple got married at a traditional Indian wedding in Bengaluru. 

The couple has two daughters – Krishna, 11, and Anoushka, 9. 

Sunak and Akshata were stakeholders in Murthy’s company – Catamaran Ventures – but the incoming PM transferred his stakes to his wife in 2015. However, the controversies continue to haunt both due to the financial windfall as well as the allegations of profiting from Infosys’ operations in Russia. 

Sunak was the favourite in the UK leadership race with more than 140 supporters in the Conservative Party, but the elections never took place as Penny Mordaunt pulled out on Monday. As a result, Sunak was picked unanimously as the next PM of the United Kingdom after the resignation of Liz Truss. Truss had a torrid tenure in office after her economic measures were criticised from all corners following a fall in the value of the pound against the United States dollar.

Sunak, who describes himself as a proud Hindu, is the UK’s first Prime Minister of South Asian heritage and the youngest for more than 200 years at the age of 42. His victory on Diwali has resonated among the Indian diaspora groups across the UK, who have hailed it as a historic moment in British social history. Rishi Sunak will take charge as Britain’s first Indian-origin Prime Minister after an audience with King Charles III today.

Outgoing Prime Minister Liz Truss will chair her final Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street today before she makes her way to Buckingham Palace to formally tender her resignation to the 73-year-old monarch. Sunak, 42, will then arrive at the palace for his meeting with the King, who will formally anoint him as the UK’s new Prime Minister.

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WhatsApp is down in several parts of the world

Many users have raised issues on Twitter and members of the India Today Tech team are also unable to use WhatsApp. Meta says it is working on the issue. Most users could open the app but were not able to send messages and media files. Naturally, users aren’t able to use other services, such as WhatsApp audio and video call.

As per the outage tracker, Downdetector, many users started facing issues with the WhatsApp mobile app and web at around 12:30 PM today, October 25. At the time of writing this article, over 2,000 users reported issues with the app on the website. Downdetector also points out that 69 percent of users are facing issues with sending messages, while 21 percent of users are facing server connection-related problems. Around 9 percent of users face other unknown issues with the smartphone app.

WhatsApp Web also appears to be affected by the outage, and we can confirm that the app’s web client is also unable to connect to the WhatsApp servers, suggesting a server-level outage, and not one that only affects the Android and iOS apps. Anyone trying to use WhatsApp Web will be greeted with an error message like the one seen below.

WhatsApp has acknowledged the issue. “We’re aware that some people are currently having trouble sending messages and we’re working to restore WhatsApp for everyone as quickly as possible,” a Meta spokesperson said.
It is not clear what has caused the disruption. There is no statement on WhatsApp or parent company Meta’s (erstwhile Facebook) official Twitter account.

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CNG And Cooking Gas Hiked By 40% To Record Levels

The rate paid for gas produced from old fields, which make up for about two-thirds of all gas produced in the country, was hiked to USD 8.57 per million British thermal units from the current $6.1, according to an order from the oil ministry’s Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC).

Simultaneously, the price of gas from difficult and newer fields like the ones in Reliance Industries Ltd and its partner bp plc operated deepsea D6 block in the KG basin, was hiked to USD 12.6 per mmBtu from $9.92, the order said. These are the highest rates for administered/regulated fields (like ONGC’s Bassein field off the Mumbai coast) and free-market areas (such as the KG basin). Also, this will be the third increase in rates since April 2019 and comes on the back of firming benchmark international prices.

Gas is an input for making fertilizer as well as generating electricity. It is also converted into CNG and piped to household kitchens for cooking purposes. A steep increase in prices is likely to reflect in higher rates for CNG and piped natural gas (PNG), which has in the last one year risen by over 70 percent. The government sets the price of gas every six months — on April 1 and October 1 — each year based on rates prevalent in gas surplus nations such as the US, Canada, and Russia in one year with a lag of one quarter.

So, the price for October 1 to March 31 is based on the average price from July 2021 to June 2022. This is the period when global rates shot through the roof. As higher gas prices can potentially further fuel inflation, which has been stubbornly above the RBI’s comfort zone for the past eight months, the government has set up a committee to review the pricing formula. The committee, under former planning commission member Kirit S Parikh, has been asked to suggest a “fair price to the end-consumer” by September-end but the report is delayed.

The government had in 2014 used prices in gas surplus countries to arrive at a formula for locally produced gas.
The rates according to this formula were subdued and at times lower than the cost of production till March 2022 but rose sharply thereafter, reflecting the surge in global rates in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The price of gas from old fields, which are predominantly of state-owned producers like ONGC and Oil India Ltd, was more than doubled to $6.1 per mmBtu from April 1. Similarly, the rates paid for gas from difficult fields such as deepsea KG-D6 of Reliance went up to USD 9.92 per mmBtu from April 1 against $6.13 per mmBtu.
The panel has been asked to recommend a fair price to end-consumers and also suggest a “market-oriented, transparent and reliable pricing regime for India’s long-term vision for ensuring a gas-based economy,” according to an oil ministry order.

The government wants to more than double the share of natural gas in the primary energy basket to 15 percent by 2030 from the current 6.7 percent. The volume-weighted average of the price prevalent in a 12-month period in US-based Henry Hub, Canada-based Alberta gas, UK-based NBP, and Russia gas are used to fix prices for administered fields of ONGC and Oil India Ltd.

For difficult fields like discoveries in deepwater, ultra-deepwater, and high pressure-high temperature areas, a slightly modified formula is used by incorporating the price of LNG, which too had shot through the roof in 2021. Reliance-bp operated KG fields are classified as difficult fields.

Sources said the increase in gas prices is likely to result in a rise in CNG and piped cooking gas rates in cities such as Delhi and Mumbai. It will also lead to a rise in the cost of generating electricity but consumers may not feel any major pinch as the share of power produced from gas is very low. Similarly, the cost of producing fertilizer will also go up but as the government subsidizes the crop nutrient, an increase in rates is unlikely. For producers, it will bring in higher revenues.

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Tamil Nadu Government Denies permission for RSS Rally

RSS planned to Conduct in Tamil Nadu over 50 places in Tamil Nadu on October 2nd, 2022 Gandhi Jayanthi. Tamil Nadu Police department immediately rejected the permission for the Rally. Tamil Nadu Police Department instructed several norms and rules to follow during the rally and dismissed the plea.

The members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) had moved the Madras High Court seeking permission to conduct a procession (Route March) wearing their uniform and led by a musical band on 2nd October 2022 and conduct a public meeting after that.

The bench of Justice GK Ilanthiraiyan directed the authorities to grant permission before the 28th of September. The exact order is awaited on 28th September.

VCK Chief Thirumavalavan invited all other parties for a Social rally on the same day. Major parties joined hands with Thirumavalavan. On the 29th of September, The Tamil Nadu government Canceled all Political gatherings and rallies in Tamil Nadu on 2nd October.

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Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Wednesday banned the Popular Front of India (PFI) and its associates

The MHA banned the PFI and its associates and issued the gazette notification a day after the second nationwide crackdown on the radical outfit in five days with police teams across seven states conducting raids Tuesday and detaining or arresting more than 270 people with alleged links to the radical outfit.

The MHA in the notification issued said the PFI and its associates, affiliates, and fronts have been indulging in unlawful activities, which are prejudicial to India’s integrity, sovereignty, and security, have the potential of disturbing public peace and communal harmony, and supporting militancy in the country. The notification further accused the PFI of “propagating anti-national sentiments and radicalizing a particular section of society” with the intention to create disaffection against the country.

  • The notification said PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts have been indulging in unlawful activities, which are prejudicial to the integrity, sovereignty, and security of the country and have the potential to disturb public peace and communal harmony of the country and support militancy in the country.
  • The govt said some of the PFI’s founding members are the leaders of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and PFI has linkages with Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), both of which are proscribed organizations.
  • There had been a number of instances of international linkages of PFI with global terrorist groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)
  • The PFI and its associates or affiliates or fronts have been working covertly to increase the radicalization of one community by promoting a sense of insecurity in the country, which is substantiated by the fact that some PFI cadres have joined international terrorist organizations, said the notification.

The government alleged that the PFI was found to have links with the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), all three of which are banned under Section 35 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Affiliate organizations of the PFI, such as the Rehab India Foundation (RIF), Campus Front of India (CFI), All India Imams Council (AIIC), National Confederation of Human Rights Organization (NCHRO), National Women’s Front, Junior Front, Empower India Foundation and Rehab Foundation.

September 18, 2022: NIA Conducts Raids at 23 Locations in PFI Case. National Investigation Agency (NIA) was conducting raids at more than 23 locations across the country in connection with a terror-related case involving the Popular Front of India (PFI).

September 22, 2022: PFI Stages Protests in Various Cities of Kerala; Calls For Statewide Strike. Popular Front of India (PFI) on Thursday staged protests across Kerala against the raids carried out in their organization’s offices, houses of leaders, and other premises by multi-agencies led by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country. 

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Delhi court accepts Vadra’s explanation for four-day UAE stopover

A Delhi court on Saturday discharged a show-cause notice issued to Robert Vadra for allegedly violating terms and conditions while traveling to the UK via Dubai. The court said it was satisfied with the businessman’s explanation that he stayed in Dubai for a medical emergency while traveling to the UK via UAE in August this year, but warned him to remain careful in the future. The court then took on record Vadra’s compliance report, stating that he had shown sufficient cause and satisfactory explanation for the four-day stopover in UAE.

Vadra, the husband of Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi, is currently on bail in connection with a money laundering case filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). On September 20, the court expressed its displeasure with Vadra’s explanation and said this was a violation of the terms and conditions of the permission granted to him, and issued a show-cause notice asking him why his fixed deposit (FD) was submitted to the court should not be forfeited.
Also read: Congress chief polls: Stage set for Tharoor vs Gehlot contest?
On Saturday, Special Judge Neelofer Abida Perveen observed: “From the contents of the affidavit, I am satisfied that the omission is not intentional, the explanation is not an afterthought, and conduct of the applicant does not lack in bona fides and good faith.” The court further observed: “The applicant has tendered an unqualified and unconditional apology for the lapse which is accepted in the circumstances as noted above. However, the applicant is warned to remain careful in the future. The show cause notice stands accordingly discharged.”

The ED, represented by Special Public Prosecutor NK Matta, had alleged that “the violation is deliberate and intentional and that the applicant has tried to circumvent the order of the Court”. Vadra’s lawyers had submitted that a mistake had occurred since an amended application seeking permission to stay over in Dubai for four days, during the trip to the UK, had not been filed.

The lawyers submitted that they “deeply regretted that out of inadvertence the same was not filed, however, the conduct of the applicant throughout has been nothing less than bonafide.” Vadra’s lawyers had argued that the court had in the past granted Vadra permission to travel to Dubai on three separate occasions.

“That there had been no objection to the applicant’s travel to Dubai or stopover at Dubai on such previous occasions. That this buffer of a brief stay in Dubai was necessitated in the wake of the sudden medical emergency and that the itinerary and travel tickets were duly filed disclosing the break in journey,” his lawyers argued. Earlier, on Wednesday, Vadra tendered his unconditional apology for the alleged violation of the terms and conditions of traveling to the UK, Italy, and Spain.

The ED, however, said that action should be initiated against Vadra. In an affidavit, Vadra said that he made an inadvertent error and instead of “to Dubai”, wrote “via Dubai” in his application seeking permission to travel.

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Ankita Bhandari Murder Case: BJP Expels Ex-Minister Vinod Arya, Son Ankit Amid Outrage

Ankita Bhandari Murder Case: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday expelled Vinod Arya and Ankit Arya , the father and brother of main accused Pulkit Arya, in connection with the murder case of a 19-year-old receptionist, Ankita Bhandari. They have been suspended from the party with immediate effect. This comes amid massive outrage over the murder of a 19-year-old girl in Rishikesh in which Vinod Arya’s other son Pulkit Arya is an arrested accused.
Pulkit Arya is the owner of the resort where Ankita Bhandari worked as a receptionist. Her body was recovered from  Chilla canal in Hrishikesh this morning after she had been missing for five days.
Ankit Arya, the brother of main accused Pulkit Arya has also been relieved by the Uttarakhand government from the post of Deputy Chairman of the Uttarakhand Other Backward Classes Commission.
Vinod Arya, a party leader from Haridwar, has formerly served as a chairman of the Uttarakhand Mati Board with a state minister’s rank. Pulkit’s brother Ankit is the vice president of state OBC Commission.
Vinod Arya’s son Pulkit — who owns the resort in Pauri’s Yamkeshwar block — was arrested Friday along with two employees of the resort for killing the receptionist, who had been missing for the past few days. The three murder accused — Pulkit Arya, resort manager Saurabh Bhaskar and assistant manager Ankit Gupta — were sent to 14-day judicial custody by a court on Friday.
Meanwhile, locals set Vanatara resort, owned by Pulkit Arya, on fire.

WATCH | #AnkitaBhandari murder case: Locals set Vanatara resort in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand on fire.
The resort is owned by BJP leader Vinod Arya’s son Pulkit Arya. Three accused, including Pulkit, have been arrested in connection with the murder case.
— ANI UP/Uttarakhand (@ANINewsUP) September 24, 2022

The incident has triggered massive outrage with locals protesting outside the resort and demanding capital punishment for the culprits. On Friday, locals in Rishikesh gheraoed a police vehicle that was carrying the accused in the murder case and thrashed them.
Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on Friday night ordered to raze down Vanatara Resort in Rishikesh, which is owned by the accused. He also ordered the formation of a Special Invetsigation Team (SIT) to probe the matter.

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Five held for planting ‘PayCM’ posters; Cong MLAs to stick posters next

A day after the ‘PayCM’ posters taking a dig at Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai surfaced in Bengaluru, the police swung into action, arresting five people who were reportedly behind the act.

Infuriated by the arrest, Karnataka Pradesh Congress chief DK Shivakumar said party MLAs would stick ‘PayCM’ posters on all government buildings on Saturday. Opposition leader Siddaramaiah, too, said he would join the campaign in the coming days.

The development comes in the midst of an aggressive campaign against the state government by Congress, which charged it with corruption in awarding public contracts and government recruitment. The contractors’ body had recently levelled bribery charges that contractors had to pay a 40 per cent commission to get public works contracts, a charge strongly denied by the government.

According to reports, scanning the QR code on the poster took users to the 40 per cent Sarkar website launched by Congress recently.

While the Congress workers threatened to stick posters on government buildings, the Bharatiya Janata Party released a booklet called ‘Scam Ramaiah’, targeting the Opposition leader. State BJP president Nalin Kumar Katil termed ‘PayCM” ‘Pay Congress Madam’ and released the ‘Scam Ramaiah’ booklet.
“Siddaramaiah will be arrested as per the court order. There were many scams during his tenure,” he said.
Not one to take things lying down, Siddaramaiah retorted, “How many people can be jailed by the BJP for seeking the truth? I will join my party workers in sticking posters about the 40 per cent commission corruption of the BJP government. Let the Government arrest all of us. Was Bommai sleeping when the BJP did a campaign targeting Congress leaders personally?’ he asked, referring to Bommai’s comment that the  ‘PayCm’ attack was personal.
He also said that even BJP made QR Code posters. “They have created an image where I was behind bars when I went before the ED inquiry. They have now arrested our workers.”

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